The Prophet Series: Hosea, part 1
In the book called by the Jews Neviim Acharonim (Later Prophets) the Book of Ezekiel is followed by the Book of the Twelve Prophets who have been called from time memorial as the minor or smaller prophets, not because their prophecy is minor league, but only due to the smaller bulk of pages that they occupy. Hosea is the first of the twelve. His office lasted for about 60 years and was directed at the Northern Kingdom of Israel from kings Jeroboam II to Hoshea, who was their last.
Jeroboam II’s reign marked the greatest time of prosperity for the Northern Kingdom of Israel. According to the word of God, through Jonah the prophet (2KI 14:25-28), Jeroboam was able to restore the ancient boundaries of Israel. Yet, this prosperity did not arise because of their return to Yavah worship, for Jeroboam continued the worship of the golden calves. It was a time when Yavah had compassion on the sons of Israel in order to call them back to to Him for the sake of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It was in this time that Hosea was called forth by God. Hosea would sternly warn them of the certain future if they did not return to the worship of God in their hearts.
This period has not a happy ending. Jeroboam II will be the last king to see a prosperous country. Israel will steadily decline, the people will become more and more oppressed by both the foreigner and their countrymen, and ultimately they and their nation will end in blood, murder, and Assyrian captivity. They will never return.
“The years of Hosea's public life were dark and melancholy.” [ McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia] The nation suffered the evil of evil men. Schism and assassination stood rather than unity, strength, and stability under the blessing of Yavah. Baal was the rival of Yavah. The peace and prosperity of Jeroboam’s era fled the land, laying bare the apostasy that had always existed since the ten tribes had split away.
The face of the rulers and government during this 60 years:
19 years without any king at all.
4 assassinations of kings by usurpers.
1 ten year allegiance with Assyria paid for by high taxes on the people.
Generally: injustice, greed, murder, and abuse of power.
When a nation is under God’s discipline there is both internal and external oppression. The weakness of the people allow outside nations to oppress and make poor. It also allows the most cunning of the greedy and power hungry to gain what they normally could not. One wonders how sick, perverted, mentally unstable, sociopaths came to power in a regime such as Nazi Germany. The weakness of the people opened a way that these types would normally never have available.
Unique among the prophets, Hosea’s family life was to mimic the condition of Israel’s spirit. He is instructed by God to marry a prostitute.
HOS 1:2 “When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, "Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry, and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord."
The three children that came from this less than holy union were to have specific names that indicted Israel’s guilt.
Jezreel (first born son): the beautiful paradise valley where the Israelites would be crushed and taken into captivity. This valley, practically a tropical paradise, would become a slaughterhouse floor. The juxtaposition is unmistakable: Israel should have been a paradise and the hearts of the people full of strength and peace, but rather, she came to ruin and destruction.
Lo-ruhamah (daughter): “no pity.” Israel was to be the beautiful daughter, protected and adorned by God, but the compassion of the Lord has reached its end.
Lo-ammi (son): “not my people.” God was to be their Husband, but they will be divorced by the Lord.
JER 3:8 "And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also.
Yet first is the name of the prostitute wife: Gomer: “to complete, destroy, to come to an end.” [Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, Koehler & Baumgartner] If the names of the children are significant that so is her’s.
The reality of a prophet of God marrying a prostitute, her subsequent adultery obviously known in the mind of the Commander, and naming his children in such an incredible way make enough theologians squirm that they conclude them to be merely pictorial illustrations of the state of Israel and not to be understood as literally occuring. But the arguments for this are weak. There is a total absence of figurative or symbolical phraseology surrounding them, and so the family life of Hosea is to be taken literally. Hosea directly obeyed God’s orders.
Hosea’s writing style? Rough, disjointed, difficult, obscure, and short. Just like the last generation of this kingdom to whom the prophet spoke.
The style of Hosea’s writing is described by one commentator as “abrupt, unrounded, and ebullient; his rhythm hard, leaping, and violent. The language is peculiar and difficult.” Another: “His discourse is like a garland woven of a multiplicity of flowers: images are woven upon images, comparison wound upon comparison, metaphor strung upon metaphor. He plucks one flower and throws it down that he may directly break off another. Like a bee, he flies from one flower bed to another, that he may suck his honey from the most varied pieces. It is a natural consequence that his figures sometimes form strings of pearls. Often he is prone to approach to allegory often he sinks down in obscurity." All commentators agree that, of all the prophets, he is, in point of language, the most obscure and hard to be understood.
This is where I would invite you to read the book. I know that most of you won’t, and so I will summarize the book with “Shame on you.” Go and read it.
In the next blog we will outline the book written by Hosea.
To Him be all the glory,
Pastor Joe Sugrue
Grace and Truth Ministries.